Weekly Web Watch (5/24-5/31)


President Obama nominated Second Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace retiring Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court. The Blog of Legal Times rounds up of reactions from issue-based interest groups, Hispanic organizations, conservative organizations, and liberal organizations and also spotlights dueling web ads on her nomination. The Los Angeles Times features a debate between Erwin Chemerinsky and Ilya Somin on the defining issues surrounding the nomination. The Wall Street Journal and Washington Times assert that Judge Sotomayor is a liberal ideologue and that her nomination confirms that Obama is far from “post-partisan.” E.J. Dionne says, however, that her record shows she is decidedly non-ideological. The editors of the New Republic agree, asserting that she was the safe pick and that Obama will have to act more boldly next time if liberals want to take the courts back. Gordon Silverstein, though, suggests that progressives should be grateful that she is not the “standard-bearer for the second coming of the Warren Court.” The New York Times writes that Sotomayor is fond of spirited debate in oral arguments, hinting that she may rival Justice Antonin Scalia’s adversarial style. Judge Sotomayor’s views on racial diversity figured prominently in some commentary, including a piece by Alan Dershowitz suggesting that diversity as a criteria is silly and one by Erwin Chemerinsky arguing that it is quite important. Responding to some commentary on the matter done in poor taste, Scotus Blog’s Tom Goldstein surveys all 97 of Sotomayor’s votes on race-related cases and concludes that it is “absurd to say that Judge Sotomayor allows race to infect her decisionmaking.” Scotusblog’s Kevin Russell points out the areas where Judge Sotomayor may differ from Justice Souter and, thus, could shift the Court’s jurisprudence. Finally, CQ Politics notes the significance of Sotomayor bringing experience as a federal trial court judge to the Supreme Court, the first to do so in half a century.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Walter Berns invokes a novel originalist interpretation to defend expansive executive power and still affirm the need for a truth commission. Balkinization’s Sandy Levinson recommends the piece and argues that a truth commission should not die simply because some Democrats may also be exposed as complicit with Bush-era abuses. Hamid Khan at ACS makes a comprehensive case for a Truth Commission to “sweep aside the politics and get to the facts.”

Thomas Sowell applies lessons from Edmund Burke to the American presidency and lays out why President Obama is falling short.

Opinio Juris’s Deborah Pearlstein draws out the major elements likely to be in legislation on Guantanamo Bay following President Obama’s speech last week. Any proposal is likely to be complicated by the fact that efforts to resettle Guantanamo prisoners in Europe is being met with resistance, according to the Washington Post. Moreover, David Rivkin and Lee Casey write in the Wall Street Journal that resettling detainees on American soil may violate international law and argue that it is poor policy. Jack Goldsmith says that a “detainee shell game” is afoot in which greater rights at Guantanamo will simply mean fewer rights and more detainees in places such as Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. The Los Angeles Times perhaps nuances Goldsmith’s conclusions by reporting that the FBI and Department of Justice are greatly expanding their presence in counter-terrorism operations as part of a “global justice” initiative in which greater effort is made to marshal evidence for criminal prosecutions of suspected terrorists. In other Guantanamo-related commentary, Scotus Blog’s Lyle Denniston has the details on the Obama Administration’s decision to oppose the release of Chinese Muslim detainees into the United States, a move that Obsidian Wings’ Hilzoy calls “shameful.” Salon’s Glenn Greenwald states his opposition to President Obama’s position on indefinite preventative detention and spots a trend of other progressives following suit.

Writing in the Daily Beast, Scott Horton reveals that the detainee photos President Obama refused to release showed sexually explicit acts, including rape and sodomy. Scotus Blog notes that the Obama Administration has decided to go to the Supreme Court to block disclosure of the photos.

Time’s Bobby Ghosh suggests that the “most successful interrogation” of an Al-Qaeda operative required no torture, only cookies. In an interview, General David Petraeus spoke candidly about Guantanamo Bay and torture, stating his belief that Americans should adhere to the rule of law and not “be afraid to live our values.” CQ Politics reports on a speech by National Security Advisor General Jim Jones who echoed these sentiments, arguing that the current administration has rejected “the false choice between our security and our ideals.”

CQ Politics’ Jeff Stein reports that Nancy Pelosi may yet be vindicated as a former deep-cover CIA operative stated that the CIA regularly misleads members of Congress on its operations.

With the government poised to take a large ownership share in General Motors, both Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum and the Center for American Progress’ Matthew Yglesias are worried that “propping up GM … [is not] the best way of getting assistance bang for the taxpayer buck.”

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